Cuomo, UFT disapprove of NYC schools reopening plan

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo is sounding off about the plan for reopening New York City public schools proposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio that calls for extensive cleaning and contact tracing.

Local districts were required to submit their reopening plans to the state Friday, and initial decisions on the plans were expected from New York officials this week. The NYC plan calls for not opening schools unless the citywide rate of positive COVID-19 tests is below 3% -- a lower number than the 5% rate that has been cited by experts as a sign that it's safe to open schools and businesses.

But the Democratic governor stressed Sunday that there needs to be a “full conversation” that answers parents' questions about reopening safely. Cuomo questioned how the 32-page plan that includes blended learning, face masks requirements and vigorous virus testing will be paid for. 

"The concepts are not enough. Where is the personnel? Where is the equipment? How are you going to do this?" said Cuomo Sunday during a telephone briefing.

The city was given a 14-day extension to submit a more complete plan.

“If the parents don’t feel comfortable, they’re not going to send their children. And we'll accomplish nothing if we open the schools but a significant number of parents decide to keep their children home," said Cuomo.

Similarly, Cuomo said “no one wants to force teachers against their will to work.”

Cuomo highlighted the need for better remote learning and proper COVID-19 testing capacity. He stressed the need for fast turnaround times for results, which has been a problem around the country.

The United Federation of Teachers is not on board.

"The standards the city proposed — for protection, testing, and closing of schools and classrooms — are not enough," said President Michael Mulgrew in a statement to the media. "We need randomized testing of school communities throughout the year and a vigorous contact tracing system that gives schools test results and a course of action with a 24-hour turnaround.

What’s more, even if there are stronger safety standards in place, we still have grave concerns about the city’s ability to enforce them effectively in every school. Right now, this is not enough to protect students and staff. "

New York has contained the virus recently even as it surges in other parts of the country. The state recorded three new deaths on Saturday and 556 people hospitalized, a decrease of 25 patients from the previous day.

Officials in New York have recently stepped up enforcement on bars and restaurants flouting pandemic rules. On Sunday, the New York City Sheriff’s department said in a tweet it intercepted a party boat at a Manhattan pier for an “illegal party” with social distancing violations and arrested the owners and captain.

Calls were made to the sheriff's department seeking more information and to the boat's owner for comment.

With the Associated Press

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